The recent article in the Mumbai Congress mouthpiece Congress Darshan, where Jawaharlal Nehru’s foreign policy was questioned and Sonia Gandhi’s father was described as a “fascist”, demonstrates the state of affairs in the grand old party, which celebrated its 130th raising day on 28 December. The massive controversy created by the in-house magazine indicates that many top functionaries of the party, both at the Centre and in the states, are not conversant either with the Congress ideology or its history. Had it not been so, no one would have dared to attack India’s first Prime Minister in this manner and thus in the process echoed the views of Nehru’s opponents. It is obvious that elements from other outfits have infiltrated the party and what makes it worse is that they have found acceptance as well.
Evidently, the party is suffering from a deep rooted crisis, which Prof Zoya Hasan, an eminent historian considered close to the Gandhis, in an interview alluded to when she said that both Sonia and Rahul were not mass leaders and the party was out of touch with the changes in India in the last 20 years. The Congress has to look beyond the dynasty, though it is not likely to happen in the near future. She observed that dynastic fixation was the reason for the leadership crisis. The dual leadership model did not work with Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi and cannot work with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. There are no signs of organisational regeneration.
The problem with the Congress is that its leadership still believes that it is running the country, while electoral evidence indicates that the party is losing its hold even in areas where it was considerably strong. The sole reason why it has been able to survive is that some of its regional leaders, due to their own influence, have kept it going. This too can best be a temporary measure as there is no firm direction from the top on how to resuscitate the organisation.
One of the principal reasons behind the decline of the party is that its high command has alienated itself from the grassroots worker and has encouraged defections from other parties. Sanjay Nirupam, the president of the Mumbai Congress, hailed originally from the Shiv Sena and has been nurtured by its ideology.
After the publication of the controversial article in Congress Darshan, he has accused his opponents of targeting him by leaking the information in the in-house circulated paper in public domain. The pertinent question is that why would his opponents within the Mumbai Congress not use this opportunity to hit at him because in their understanding he should have never been elevated to the coveted post.
At the Centre, there are leaders like Madhusudan Mistry, who came into the Congress from the Bharatiya Janata Party. Surprisingly, Mistry is considered one of the closest aides of Rahul Gandhi. The long list of 52 spokespersons in a party with 45 MPs in the Lok Sabha also demonstrates how ill-informed functionaries ignorant of the party’s history and ideology were these days on high defensive on various channels. People can see through these things even if the leadership surrounded by sycophants cannot comprehend the ramifications of such appointments. There are many more who have come to the Congress from other parties, including half of those who won the recent Bihar Assembly polls on the party ticket.
Indira Gandhi’s political adviser, Makhan Lal Fotedar, in his book had also talked about this invasion by outsiders and how they were unacceptable to the cadre despite the fact that they had the patronage of the leadership.
The principal reason for the party losing the 2014 Parliamentary polls was that its workers chose to sit at home miffed by the raw deal they got from the top leadership. The supreme irony was when the Congress workers celebrated their own party’s defeat with as much enthusiasm as the BJP cadres rejoiced over their party’s unprecedented victory under the leadership of Narendra Modi.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Rahul Gandhi is on an overdrive to put the organisation back on track. One has to also take notice of the fact mentioned by Prof Zoya Hasan that his communicatory skills are nothing to write home about. He has to evolve as a leader, who finds acceptability amongst the masses. He attempts to claim credit for things which had nothing to do with him personally and it is very evident that he is not getting correct advice.
Sonia is obsessed with the idea of seeing him succeed. This is not working out either. She may have become the longest serving Congress president in history, but she has failed to inspire the cadre in the last few years. It is largely because she too has surrounded herself with advisers who have created barriers between her and the common worker. Unless this is reversed, nothing notable can be achieved.
There has been some diminishment of Modi’s popularity in the last few months. However, Congress cannot be the beneficiary unless the leadership changes its methods. As things stand today, the Congress high command and its alienation from the ground realities is the greatest insurance for a bright future of the Prime Minister. Between us.